For years, we have anxiously awaited Leslie Iwerks’ documentary about Walt Disney Imagineering. Well, it’s finally here as part of the launch of Disney+. We reviewed the first episode “The Happiest Place On Earth” earlier this week. The first episode covered the advent of WDI through to the end of Walt Disney’s life. For the second episode, which premiered today, we delve into the development of Walt Disney World as Walt’s brother Roy attempts to fulfill his brother’s dying wishes, despite the risky endeavor. A second generation of designers carry out the last of Walt’s ideas and form EPCOT, where the Imagineers achieve a higher purpose, beyond entertainment.
There are certainly plenty of documentaries and excellent books out there on the development on EPCOT Center, but for the first time since 1982, a mainstream media offering captures the importance, brilliance, and magic of what was possibly the greatest feat in the history of entertainment.
The documentary paints an optimistic view that EPCOT’s ideals would continue for generations to come, a viewpoint that comes at a somber time given the park’s ongoing overhaul, which only stresses educational values as an afterthought to appease fans and creatives who lament what was lost. Even if you never visited EPCOT Center at its height, you’ll likely feel that sense of loss thanks to the episode’s abrupt, yet captivating look at why the park was so special.
I only say abrupt for the EPCOT Center portion because I know one could spend years researching and telling the stories of the park’s development, as well as each individual pavilion’s offerings. For the sake of an entertaining documentary series for all, I think the content was handled brilliantly.
Iwerks also understood that the development of the Magic Kingdom was secondary to EPCOT, giving a majority of the one hour runtime to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
The highlight of the episode for me was the explanation of all the new technology that was developed to bring EPCOT to life. I’m overjoyed that millions of Disney+ subscribers will get to discover what Imagineers did to create what was my favorite Disney Park.
The episode also includes fun jaunts to the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.
The series continues to be very honest, weaving the tail of the tremendous growth of WED leading into the larger projects, and then of the near-collapse of the entire organization following layoffs and Disney’s corporate issues in the early 1980’s.
It’s fun as a child of the 80’s-90’s to see the collision of Imagineers who built Disneyland with the names responsible for the attractions that opened in my lifetime.
A short, but thoughtful section of the program also covers the development of Tokyo Disneyland and its unique connection to its target guests. Again, one could talk for hours about such a topic, but The Imagineering Story makes the subject matter concise, remaining interesting for viewers of any knowledge level with the history of the Disney Parks.
Again, The Imagineering Story did not disappoint, and I am anxiously awaiting next Friday’s episode capturing the arrival of Micheal Eisner and Frank Wells. Based on how honest the series has been so far, I think the best stories are yet to come…
If you grew up going to Walt Disney World, you’ll probably want to prepare to get emotional again with Episode 2’s touching take of Roy Disney continuing Walt’s last dream. Archival footage captures the glory of Walt Disney World in the 1970’s and 80’s, sure to tug on the heartstrings of anyone who visited in those years and beyond.